Brandon was beginning to try his best to ruin things. He came into Ned’s tent in the early morning before the sun rose, and tried to dispose of the crown in the same way he’d gotten rid of the flowers. The result of his actions were that she woke up angry, grabbed at it and he’d closed his hands around it. He hadn’t looked to check for thorns, he’d judged there would be no problem as she treated it gently. But, there had been thorns and now all of them poked his hand, he cursed and she complained there was now blood on her crown. Ned had tried to be thoughtful enough to show concern.
“Do you want me to get something to stop the bleeding?” He asked.
“No!” He yelled. “By the end of that day I want you to make her tired of playing games!”
“I didn’t do anything you burst in on us like a mad man!”
“It is far too early for nonsense. You know as well as I do, it’s Lyanna and Benjen…”
“Well, be on guard in case he screws something up.” Brandon stomped back out and Ned turned back to her and sighed.
“Do not do something to make Brandon kill our Brother.”
“Maybe if he slept in this one time he’d feel less crabby.” She told him.
She admired Benjen’s good spirit. Despite the fact they discussed things Brandon would not like, and what not to do, he had been inclined to try one thing. Since their first night they’d been trying to figure out how Howland Reed crossed God’s Eye and ended up on the Isle of Faces. So they took their horses around the waters edge and slowly let them get closer and closer until they were in the water. But they hadn’t gotten far. They shopped and no matter what would not move.
“Come of Torrhen, it’s all right, he had to have walked all the way. There was no boat. People can’t walk on water.” The horse however wasn’t swayed. Finally she’d given up and dismounted.
The water had been deeper and they were on the edge of a dip, which the horses seemed to sense. So they hadn’t wanted to go any further. Lyanna however found herself just about to her chin in water. Benjen howled with laughter, so she splashed at him.
“We could try swimming it.” He teased.
“Only if you’re a strong swimmer. I’m not. I’ve tried in the moat…If I can stand in it I’ll be fine, but if it gets too much deeper I would be a little worried.”
“I’m good enough at it. Want me to try? I’ll see how deep it gets. You can stand guard and watch so we don’t get in trouble by Lord and Lady Whent or Brandon.”
They rode back to the clearing and she took his horse. He stripped down to as little as he dared then went back to the water. “Call out to me if you see someone.”
He swam a good way out before she saw anyone, but they hadn’t stopped to look or think much of them. She sighed in relief, then he passed halfway and stopped for a moment. He waved to her, she waved back. But the time she looked, she saw a man in Black coming towards her.
“Ben!” She called and he started back over. She turned to the man and frowned. “We were playing a game, I bet him three coppers he couldn’t swim all the way…”
The man seemed to smile. “No need to worry, I won’t tell anyone. I like talking to your brother.”
“My father had suggested he consider going to the Wall, he says if he tries hard enough he could even become First Ranger. He’s adventurous, do you think he could?”
He shrugged. “He was raised in a Lord’s castle, there are many advantages to that. We have been talking about it, I had told him he might like to consider something different.”
“It’s what my father wants. He says too many years have past since there were Starks manning the Wall. All good Northmen show concern for the Wall after all, and Bran the Builder is responsible for its existence….”
“I know all about the Wall milady. I’ve lived there my whole life, until they let me come here, I thought nothing else about anything. But who would willingly give up this?”
She frowned, “Well, winter is coming. It won’t be like this forever. I do worry…First Brandon will be married, then I…With Brandon ready to be Lord, and my brother Eddard close to my betrothed, I fear my Father might consider bringing Benjen and himself to the Wall to take the black. I don’t want him to be upset by it, especially if it is forced.”
“Starks are strong.”
“We are, but sometimes even the strongest feel the most pain.”
Benjen smiled at the man and pat her on the shoulder. Which should have meant stay here, but he was distracted. So she took the opportunity to to ride around the clearing to the other side of God’s Eye. Once she did she dismounted and and tried to wring out some of the water from her clothes. Her horse let out a low whine, letting her know he wanted something from the saddlebag. When she approached and fed him the treat he tossed his head, and she stroked his muzzle and leaned in closer to him. She hadn’t heard him approach, and the horse gave her no warning, likely because there had been no danger anytime before. Hullen had made sure her horse was trained to fuss when there was a threat to her, or if there was someone he didn’t know. But he snuck up on her. He had even dismounted his own horse and stood close to her.
He cleared his throat, getting her attention. He could only smile at the surprised look on her face. “You really are much more gentle than your reputation leads me to believe.” He took her hand and kissed it, “Might I have a moment with you, my dear lady?” He asked.
“Of course my Prince.” They started to walk into the woods, she started to smile. “Thank you for the crown. I do love it so much. Brandon has said tomorrow he will dispose of it, that I have had enough fun.”
“And what of the bracelet?” He took her other hand, saw it and smiled.
“Ned said Robert left the box…”
“Oh he had, my sweet Queen. I simply…supplied it with more gifts, and I must confess to you I had not been pleased with the Stag, so I switched the box to show the Direwolf.”
“My Prince is unhappy with Lord Baratheon?” She asked.
“Unhappy….we’ll I have found a few interesting things I would like to share with you. Did you receive my note?”
“The poem….No….Brandon threw it in his fire…”
He stopped and cupped her face. “I only want to be honest with you. I am very fond of our relationship. I dread that it may come to an end. I want you to be prepared, and know everything about this man your brother is friends with.”
“Anything you chose to share with me is a treasure my Prince.” He leaned in to kiss her, and they heard hoof beats and he pulled away. He chuckled, “Those brothers, dire wolves must have the innate sense of where their pack is.”
“Is it Brandon? Benjen let me here while he talked to the man from the Night’s Watch.”
“No, he is much shorter, and young.”
She smiled. And turned to wave at Benjen as he came closer. “I am older than Ben. So, out of all of them it is much easier to get my way from him.”
“How very clever. When is he to be guarding you?”
“Every two nights. Brandon has given them a schedule so he can feel lordly.”
“Lyanna…” He started. “After what Brandon said this morning why are you with the prince….”
“The eldest wolf senses something is amiss. Your prince should be careful, else he might think I wish to harm the lady. I hold your sister in the highest esteem. I would consider her for a council position at court, but I fear they might find it odd.”
He dismounted and stared at Rhaegar in disbelief and amusement. “You were talking politics?”
“Oh yes, boring, awful politics. She is sharp as valyrian steel, charming lady. I do not believe we have met.”
He smiled and held out his hand. The prince took it and they shook firmly. “I’m Benjen Stark, your grace.”
Lyanna smiled and took Benjen’s other hand. “Brandon isn’t always kind to my brothers. He was worried I was up to something and he’d be blamed.”
He smiled shyly. “I usually am to be blamed your grace. Brandon often tells me I don’t see things as clearly as I should.”
“You’ll have the opportunity to be a fine man. I do think he underestimates you, as I’ve seen Starks have an innate sense of command and authority. I regret I have other matters to see to. I will likely see the both of you again, until then, good day to you both. Lady of House Stark, and Ser Benjen the Brave.”
“I’m not a knight.” He responded. But Prince Rhaegar only smiled and continued on his way.
“He was being kind. He’s often kind…”
“He made you cry.” He sniggered. “Remember, the song?”
She stared at him, then scoffed. “I remember how much better my wine tasted after I’d poured the first glass over your head.”
“Yes, and now I refuse to laugh at you unless someone sits between us.” He smiled at her. “If I’m Benjen the brave, what is Brandon?”
“Brandon the brazen.”
“He would be Eddard the entrancing.”
“Yes, he inspires loyalty and goodness because he’s entranced them to be noble and just.”
“What of you? Lyanna the laborious.”
“No. The prince already named me I’m the Queen of Love and Beauty. I’m Lyanna the lovely if anything. Benjen the brat.” She teased.
They walked and he sighed. “Don’t say anything…”
“Why would I say anything Ben? I’d be in trouble too.” She replied hotly. “I’m not an idiot. I’m not a child, all three of you need to remember that.”
“I didn’t say you were. I let things slip out, just, be careful around him. He’s bothered by something and I don’t think it has anything to do with your crowning or the prince.”
“What do you mean?”
“Brandon was to come because he’s the heir to Winterfell, Ned, because of Robert Baratheon, you, because Robert asked for your hand. That and you would cry and whine to Father until he had someone bring you. Father told me I needed to be here to bridge the gap between Ned and Brandon. He says there are bad feelings between them.”
“Why type of hard feelings? They seemed fine when we were traveling…” She replied.
“Our first day here, while you were fighting, Ned introduced us to Robert Baratheon. It seemed fine. Then, the next day it’s Ned, Robert and Arryn’s men in a group and Brandon and our banner men in another breaking their fast. While you were talking to that group of ladies, I’d needed to ask him to come back and sit with us. Brandon wasn’t pleased. He told me to let him stay next time. You saw how this morning went, you were with him. He stormed into his tent and tried ordering you around. After he told Ned the night before he needed to keep track of you. Who knows, he might do the same with me tomorrow.”
“But why is he angry? What reason could he possibly be mad at Ned?”
He shrugged. “Maybe because you invited Howland Reed, and Ned said he’d share his tent. At dinner they talked a little. In the morning he went a ways on the King’s road with him. Then he came back and sat with his friends. Brandon won’t say it, but I know he doesn’t trust him. I don’t know why.”
They stopped back at the camp so they could change their clothes. She didn’t know what made Brandon more miserable, that he looked like he’d been thrown into God’s Eye, or that he’d met the prince while being soaked. At least her brother had enough sense to not turn on her. Instead while he changed she sat with Brandon at their small camp circle and brushed her hair.
“I don’t want to hear you’ve so much as looked at Prince Rhaegar another time. Do you understand?”
“That would be awfully difficult, considering we’re all at the same tourney. He sits at the main table it’s awfully hard to not look there.”
“I don’t appreciate when you try to be difficult, the Gods saw fit for you to be difficult on your own. The extra effort is not appreciated.”
She stood up and kisses his cheek. “They saw fit to make you difficult as well. I’m not doing anything wrong, we ran into each other a couple of times. It’s not like I think I’m a princess from an old tale, dear brother. I don’t plan on running off with him and getting married in secret.”
“He named you Queen of Love and Beauty.” He growled.
“Brandon, you are also betrothed, who would you have named? You couldn’t name your lady if she isn’t here. It could’ve been a scandal as well. Better him causing problems than you.”
“I am involved if it involves you. Promise me now, you won’t do anything to ruin your betrothal. Robert will have you a maiden, it’s more than your honor, it’s father’s honor, our house’s honor…”
“I’m not stupid.” She sighed.
“Spoiled, not stupid.” Benjen came out from the tent and she sighed. Now he moved to sit where she had sat earlier. She went to change into a dress, because that was what Brandon had told her to do in public. He didn’t mind the riding, or their experience in the water, so long as she looked like a proper lady once the time came for her to be seen.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He tried to strike on her left, then right, then from above. Each time she blocked easier than before. Then she bounded off and launched herself from a rock at him knocking him to the ground. He only laughed, he like hitting swords with her. She was a constant variable, if he trained with Brandon he was very particular to following the same set pattern of how to train. Which he became good at, but some battles he knew were won by how well the fighter could adjust to what he was dealing with. Lyanna had no problem throwing a snowball at him if he was falling into an easy pattern, or letting him chase her through puddles of mud until he slipped in it and fell. Finally when she was done playing with him, and stood up again he pulled a hand axe from his belt.
“Look what I borrowed from Brandon.” Benjen taunted, he held up a hand axe and grinned.
“Do you know how to use it?” She teased. She reached for it and he turned away from her.
“Of course I know how to use it.”
“Then show me, Ser Benjen the Brave.” She taunted. “I’ve seen you try, before we left Winterfell. You were practicing with Ethan you were terrible.”
He scoffed. “I wasn’t terrible, I’m just not really great at it. It takes practice you know, all of the stuff you like playing at. If you didn’t have me you wouldn’t even know how to use a sword.”
She crossed her arms and looked at him dangerously. “No, I would. I would find someone would would teach me. I get what I want….”
He started to laugh. “You sounded just like Brandon! ‘No, I’ll do it, I am to be Lord of Winterfell it’s my duty.’ ‘I only have the best, I am to be The Warden of The North.’”
“I do not. It’s part of how you need to act as a man.” She teased. “I am a Lady, as a proper chivalrous man, you are to see that I am being treated well. So, you, as the youngest with the least responsibility are to keep me entertained and happy at all times.”
“There are times I really wish I didn’t have a sister.” He smiled. “I really wasn’t that bad.”
“You were pretty bad with the axe throwing. I asked Ethan after if he was afraid you’d let go too soon and throw it behind you and hit him. He seemed like he was but he told me no. But every time you moved your arm backward he’d flinch and move closer to Brandon.”
He rolled his eyes. “As your brother, younger or not I have the duty to inform you that this is exactly the type of thing your husband would never ever want to hear from you. ‘You were so awful the men sworn to protect you were secretly laughing behind your back.’”
“But if I don’t tell him, who would? What do you think of Robert Baratheon?” They stopped in a clearing and he pulled his arm back and threw the axe. “I don’t know if Brandon doesn’t like him because he was Ned’s friend first, or if he just reminds him too much of himself. Ned naturally likes him, but he’s had some difficulty telling me why. I do understand, he doesn’t like talking about himself. He’ll tell me stories on how he was good to our brother, and in that it shows why he likes him. What do you think?”
Benjen retrieved the axe and shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. He has wealth, and power. If you want a new horse because yours is too old, he’ll buy you one. If you want to go somewhere he has ships and could take you there. You’re set for life. You’re not stupid, what else do you think you want?”
“I want someone who understands me. He is handsome, and he is very strong…But he seemed like he was waiting forever to see me. I felt his eyes on me since the day we came here but he only recently decided to say anything to me. So is he doing this because he wants me? Or is it just because it looks good? I don’t know a thing about him. Why would father chose him over a Northern Lord he has known forever?”
Benjen threw the axe again. “Because the Northern Lords are not on equal footing with him. He might of thought for awhile to marry you to one of them, but the second he saw another big house would be interested, he was interested. He seems like he really likes you. He turned down fighting Brandon and probably winning to try at getting closer to you. I mean, if he would of asked me I would of told him ‘Go ahead nothing would make her laugh harder than if Brandon fell from his horse.’ He probably wasn’t interested in you at first because you had your hair tied up, were wearing the most plain uninteresting riding clothes, and you smelled like your horse. That’s how everyone is with you, if you don’t look like you’re a lady they almost mistake you for their younger brother and wonder who I am.”
“Well, if he wanted someone that looked pretty and smelt nice why does he want to marry me?”
“I didn’t say he did, I just said if you look like a boy he’s not going to seem interested. If you’re bossing Brandon around, and walking around with Ned in this crowd of people I’m sure he was bound to figure out who you were then. But by then he was probably afraid to talk to you. If you didn’t do what you want all the time I’m sure he would’ve come right up to you on the first night and asked to dance.” The axe hit again and he shook his head and went to get it again. “I’m not THAT bad.”
“You’re doing much better than before.” She smiled.
“Brandon helped me some more. I told him I thought about entering the axe throwing contest. You’d think it was fun at least.” He sighed. “Brandon told me ‘I better teach you myself then, so you don’t embarrass all of us.”
“Well, if he teases you tell him he did so well against the Prince.” she replied sarcastically. “Make up things on how he looked so elegant, falling from his horse. It’s a shame he hurt his leg a little, but surely he could have done so much better.”
Benjen laughed. “You don’t choose favorites at all do you?”
“I love all of you.” She replied. “I just think Brandon would do better if he were humbled, even a little. He is very good despite everything to Ethan, and his friends. Even you and Ned, once he’s decided you aren’t trying to make him look like a fool. Once he trusts someone, he is wonderful, he just has a horrible temper. He does however have lovely looking hair, because I just cut it before we left.” She giggled.
“Do you remember, the first time you offered to cut his hair? When we tried to convince him you gave him a bald spot. He was furious!” Benjen laughed again. “The look on his face! Then he was going to tell father, that may have made him laugh.”
She smiled and reached for the hand axe. Her brother shrugged her off then moved away from her, but she followed him. She was determined to take the hand axe, and he was determined not to give it to her. Soon she was chasing him laughing. “Ben! It’s not fair! Let me have a turn!”
“Brandon said I could only have it if you didn’t touch it!” He argued.
“Oh, but Ben, I need it!”
“You HARDLY need anything sharp, especially when you’re chasing your brother!” He stopped suddenly and turned, pretending to look off in the distance. She put her hands around it and was about to take it from him when he spoke again. “Isn’t that Prince Rhaegar?”
She turned to look then crossed her arms and glared at him. “You are horrible!”
“I’m not horrible.” He smiled. “It was funny, you actually looked. Come on, let’s sign me up for the axe throwing contest. Nothing will make you feel like you’ve had your revenge besides me losing horribly to someone.”
He hadn’t really been losing though. Just as a precaution so he wouldn’t get into trouble he had her stand close to where he was on the field. It was much better than sitting and watching jousting from so far away. Being in the middle of things was exciting, she had no qualms about bringing him water, or encouraging him from one challenge to the next. She thought he did well, at least he made it to the final round. Brandon had been the first of their brothers that passed by, he was quick to criticize him on how poor his stance was, and how he wasn’t throwing it like how they’d practiced.
“Oh leave him alone. He’s wonderful, if he doesn’t do it your way obviously he had a different teacher.”
“Who would teach him?” Brandon scoffed. “He doesn’t listen, then he gets upset when he does horribly and doesn’t want to try anymore. He’s more of a girl than you are.”
“I don’t know, maybe Ned. When we’re together, he and Ned have been together. You probably haven’t noticed they’ve grown closer. He doesn’t remember much of when Ned lived with us, but he’s made our brother a little more talkative.”
“Considering his friend Robert, I’d be surprised if he ever managed to get a word in. Maybe he’s just happy someone will listen to him.”
She smiled. “Father always told me, good lords know when to be silent and when to speak. He said, Ned was the one that seemed to understand what he meant. I do wish you liked them better….”
Brandon shrugged. “This whole contest is awful, I wouldn’t be surprised if he won. He couldn’t beat a real man though.”
After he threw the axe and hit the mark Brandon went over to him, she couldn’t hear what he was saying. But, his brother watching him and unnerved him. Then when he approached him, telling him this, that, and something else seemed to overwhelm him. It didn’t take her long after he left to calm him back down.
Ned had called over to her later in the day towards the end. She coerced him into standing with her. He didn’t make any comments like Brandon had. He just asked what they’d been doing, and if she wanted to go with him to look at some of the other things that were going on at the tourney. She shook her head.
“I like it here, you hear the most interesting conversations. If I had any coin with me I would be richer now.”
“That doesn’t make me inclined to give you any. You shouldn’t take part in bets.” He scolded.
“Well, I’ll forget I heard that since Father would not approve of that type of behavior.”
“He doesn’t usually bet against Brandon.” She teased.
“Father wouldn’t have it either way.” They watched Benjen, Ned looked away and sighed. “Has he been this nervous the whole time?”
“No.” She replied. “He was more nervous when Brandon was here. He’ll calm down…”
“It’s hard when he looks up to Brandon, to do as well as he would.” Ned replied. “The hardest part in understanding our older brother is, he decided when he was very young he wanted to be the best at everything. He didn’t want to live in Father’s shadow, he wants to be a great lord. So, everything we were given he worked tirelessly at. But, unfortunately for Ben, it leaves us little room to be compared to him.
“Father doesn’t compare him to Brandon.”
“There isn’t much to compare, Brandon is strong willed and stubborn. Ben has always been quick to please father and dutiful. With you and Brandon driving him mad, he needs someone who does as he wants. He’s as strong as he needs to be, Brandon hasn’t been neglecting showing him a thing or two here or there. Brandon just makes the mistake of assuming we want to be like him.”
“I wouldn’t mind being a Lord, they have so much freedom.” She teased.
He smiled. “I don’t doubt that at all. But you do lack some of the basic makings of a Lord. You’ll just have to settle for being a lady, and coercing your husband to follow your whims.”
When he entered the final round she was cheering and clapping for him. That was until Ned had told her to stop because she was embarrassing him. He told her their brother wasn’t used to quite so much attention, she didn’t doubt it was true. Brandon was the handsome one, he traveled, he talked to everyone, and no one really thought much on his younger brothers. He knew he lost after he threw the axe the last time, he kicked up some dirt and hoped his opponent would do the same. However it hadn’t happened, he had a more deliberate hit, that hit dead center. He took his brother’s axe and walked over to them with some disappointment. Ned gave him a pat on the back and told him he did well, likely even better than he could himself. Then Lyanna bounded over to him and hugged him tightly, losing didn’t seem to matter anymore. There were worse things.
After dinner when they sat at their camp Benjen talked on how the tournament went, making himself sound just a little more impressive to keep Brandon interested. She announced she was going to bed shortly after, and she did enjoy a short nap before he came back into the tent. She had to wait until she was sure he was asleep before making her next move, and even then she tried to be extra quiet. It was easier this time than the last to sneak past her other two brothers. Then she rode back to the place where she had met the Prince earlier that day. He was waiting for her, He stood just on the edge of the forest with his harp. At her approach he stopped playing to help her dismount. Then he smiled at her and kissed her hand.
“I set up a camp for us in the woods. If it please you, it should give us more privacy.
They settled by a small fire off by a clearing near God’s Eye. Close enough to watch the moon and stars reflecting off the water’s surface. But they were back in the woods, just far enough off to not be seen. He’d brought a blanket to lay on the ground, in some hope it might be more comfortable than their last meeting.
“You should tell me more tales of Valyria my Prince.” she said suddenly. “I feel like I know so little about you, but you seem to know volumes about myself.”
“I could, but I think I’d like to send you one of my books. Then when we’re lucky enough to meet once more, you can tell me the tales.” He smiled. “I do love your enthusiasm.”
She smiled and turned to face him. “We talked on the moon, and stars. The letter you gave me made it seem urgent. I am starting to think it was just a device to lure me out here.”
He smiled. “Oh no, there is something I wanted to inform you of.” he placed an arm on either side of her so their eyes could meet. She looked into his eyes and touched his face.
“Have you heard of Maya Stone?”
“I think you might like to ask. Surely, your brother, which, you have told me is his good friend has made some mention of your betrothed’s character. He has told you what to expect since he should know how he treats ladies.”
“Ned says he will be a good husband, we’re going to be a good match….”
He leaned into kiss her. She wrapped arms around his neck as she kissed back , and he pulled her into a sitting position. “But?” He asked.
“I had been feeling like he’s hiding something from me. There seems to be a moments hesitation where he seems like he isn’t sure himself.”
“You have not talked to him directly?” He asked. “When I was looking for a wife, many ladies came from everywhere. Many were lovely, few I could hold interest in.”
“My father insists I be with my brothers at all times…”
He chuckled. “Yet here we are.”
“My father is just nervous. I am his only daughter, and his wife passed away. I am the only sweet thing he had to protect. Let him protect me and shelter me from all of the evil in the world. I…I don’t think you would harm me. You have such a…loveable honorable nature. I don’t question your goodness. But I must confess, when I see Robert Baratheon it’s either with a wine glass, or he’s booming with laughter. They’re very awkward times to say something to him. Besides, he does have the same opportunities to talk to me. Maybe we’re both just being foolish, and we’re frightened about being married. It’s just so final…”
“Are you afraid to be married?”
“I hadn’t been, my Prince but I think I may have fallen in love with the wrong man.”
He smiled lightly. “My sweet Queen. It had not been my intention. You’re very sweet, and lovable. I could never imagine a man to dislike you. I’ll admit to you, there are times I question myself as well.”
She smiled. “I’m glad it isn’t just me being foolish. We’re both fools, do you think it’s easier for small folk? They don’t have to take part in politics, they just live their lives and hope for the best. They might really be the lucky ones, they can dream, and their dreams might never be reality. At least for them they aren’t told they constantly can’t do something. I’m told I can’t do something and the world is against me.”
“In my opinion from what I know of you I think what you have just told me might very well be false. You have enough desire and passion to do whatever you’d like. Regardless of who is telling you what you need to be doing. If I might infer, I do think the only thing holding you back is fear.”
“Fear?” She giggled. “My father has said since I was very young I have no fear of anything.”
“Surely there must be something the lady is afraid of.” he teased. “I think in the case of our conversation, it might be your honor. Your father and your house are so exalted to you, there is not a doubt in your mind you would do anything for them. But, you are not a boy it will always be your house in blood, but in name you were meant to be separate from in since you were born. Could you show the same devotion to House Baratheon when the time came? It is actually quite a young house, and you Starks have quite the rich history.”
“There is that one thing I suppose, not so much my honor. But you are quite close. If I must admit, I have a fear of losing the ones I love. I lost my mother when I was young. My brother Eddard, he was in the Vale. She had been sick when he left. Benjen doesn’t remember her…I remember less and less with each passing day.”
“What was she like?”
“A little like me, a little like Brandon. From what I remember. Father liked to tease me…He’d tell me she was the kind of woman his parents had warned him of. Too much of the North. Then when they had us, we ended up with too much wolf blood.”
“Surely wolf blood must be good for wolves. From what I have seen and heard you are all quite noble, he should be very pleased.”
“Thank you my Prince.” She smiled at him. “Now it’s your turn. What are you afraid of?”
“A prince shouldn’t say he’s afraid of anything, my lady. It is very bad for his reputation.” She took his hand in hers and he smiled. “But you were so quick in obliging to me, I really should tell you something.” He paused for a moment, then sighed. “I suppose the best I can offer you is this; I fear things will change quickly, that I will need to take what is mine, and without proper precautions, I fear it will turn badly before it has even begun. But, everything I have done has shown me it must be me. So I must act and things should fall into place later.”
“I would like to help you, if you would need my help…”
“There is no person that I would like to have help from more than you. You have quite the way with people.”
She leaned in close to him and smiled. “My father said all good ladies should have a way with people. You can count on House Stark to always be loyal to you.”
“I trust in your ability to control those brothers of yours.” He smiled. “I do hope you’ll be able to control Robert Baratheon.” He sighed. “The more I hear about him, the more I wish to keep you from him.”
“He seemed kind enough to me, most girls my age would have been swooning over him after what he did for me at the jousting tournament. But I will remember to ask my brother in the morning who Maya Stone is.”
“You’re clever, I’m sure you have some idea who she might be.”
She thought for a moment and smiled. “Well, I suppose since her name is Stone, she is a bastard born in the Vale. So, she might be someone he is fond of.”
“Not quite. She is Robert Baratheon’s daughter.” He replied. “He may very well have others, I have only heard of one. But I suppose your brother would know, as they’re such good friends…”
She crossed her arms and looked furious. “Oh, I will be talking to him in the morning. I thought he might be a little like Brandon, the way he handles himself around people. He knows he’s important and to be respected.”
Prince Rhaegar chuckled and rubbed her shoulders. “You are rightfully angry. But, I found the information, I do not know if it was just….one thing….or if the is the type of man who…enjoys a woman’s company so much he could hardly be faithful. I could be wrong, my lady. I only want to warn you, you have a mind for seeing past politics and false kindness.” He kissed her cheek. “Perhaps I’ll play one more song, I would hate for you to leave here in a bad mood.”
She couldn’t sleep when she went back to the camp. A fire was also out of the question, if she woke any of her brothers up, there would be more questions. So, she sat by the unlit fire pit, poking at the logs with a stick. If she were in Winterfell, she would have sat in the Godswood. But, she didn’t know how to get there now. The stick fell to the ground and she was lost in her own thoughts again. She already felt more comfortable with the Prince than she did with Robert Baratheon. It was likely because she knew the type of man he was when she met him. He was calm and kind, when he thought she was a boy, he was amused, and he was willing to go easy on her because she’d kept him entertained. Then when he knew she was a lady, he’d been kinder. He had her in the position he could have done anything to her, her life was in his hands anyway, and he’d just dismissed what had happened to the tourney and was glad to keep the secret to himself. She wondered briefly what Robert would have done. She had heard he was fond of ladies, even in the first few moments she’d seen him at the first night’s feast, she could tell it was true. Then he was speaking on how he’d kill that knight for the king. If she were to throw her armor aside and plead for him not to tell, would being his betrothed help her? She knew she’d be in a different situation, Brandon had always been so agitated by him, he didn’t like the look in his eyes when he looked at her. He would, she thought, have her at the first chance he could. She hadn’t noticed her brother sit next to her. Not until she heard him sigh.
“Trouble sleeping?” He asked.
“Yes, a little.”
“Something on your mind?”
She turned to him, ready to complain he hadn’t been honest. He could have told her what Robert Baratheon was really like. If he already had children he should have said something, she shouldn’t keep things like that from her. But he looked just as tired, and worn out. “Yes… What about you?”
“A few things. Had to argue with Brandon after you went to bed. Robert had stopped by to tell me there was going to be ancient style melee that he’s taking part of. He said he’d like to have you there for good luck.”
“That must have made him happy.”
“If by happy you mean furious, yes. Brandon offered to take you himself. As we agreed he would be with you tomorrow, since the beginning of the tourney. I told him we would just switch and he could have you the next day, then Benjen the day after no big deal. But it had been his plan and he was acting like I’m changing things. Then I said if it bothered him we could all go together. Or I could take you, and bring you right back like we did when he was jousting the Prince.”
“He’s been really easily agitated recently. Maybe he thinks we’re taking better to you than him?”
“I don’t think he’s been too happy with Robert. He comes to me, he asks me, and Brandon is the one responsible for everything.”
“Well, I would like to go to the melee. I’ll even tell Brandon myself, we can go together.” She smiled. “We should both get some sleep. We’ll talk about my problem tomorrow, we will need to be at our best if we have to argue with Brandon.”
He started to smile. “That is true. Goodnight.”s begi